A Travellerspoint blog

"Ow she cuttin, me cocky?"

"How are you, my friend?"

overcast 18 °C

Home sweet home. I love traveling and experiencing different things but I also love coming home.

Our final day in Newfoundland was spent further exploring Gros Morne National Park. We headed up to Western Brook Pond (remember all fresh bodies of water in Newfoundland are ponds, regardless of size (and this was no pond by our standards)). A noteworthy and picturesque stop given its steep rock walls 600 m (2,000 ft) high, reminders of the glaciers path. A short hike in gave us a decent view of the pond and her walls. We followed up with a visit to the Tablelands (described yesterday as the barren desert mountains in the park as the rock has been pushed up from the Earth's mantle.) Odd and wonderful but sort of boring (it is just a bunch of reddish rock) a short hike up the valley was all that was needed for us (I apologize to the geologist who are shuddering at my lack of interest in this unique geological feature).

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Two short hikes and a final lunch of local faire (which included moose meat pie and fish cakes) consumed most of the day so we said our farewell to the ocean and made our way into Deer Lake for our final night.

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Overall we are both extremely pleased with the accommodation booked on this trip, quaint, in great locations, until last night. I get a gigantic fail for last night's hotel, Driftwood Inn. I think we both agree this is the worst place we have ever stayed. Needless to say sleep was hardly achieved so the 3:30 am alarm was too soon or a welcome relief depending on how you viewed it. We headed to the airport for our 5:30 am flight to Toronto and subsequent 8 am flight to Calgary. We were in the house by noon. Exhausted but home.

So final thoughts, observations, comments on Newfoundland in no particular order (we are both pretty tired):

  • Fantastic place to explore, people are friendly and it is easy and fun to be in Canada discovering new and wonderful things. That said it is not necessarily cheap. We used B&B's for most of the trip and they averaged $100/night. Car rentals are really expensive ($1,000 for the week). Food is amazing but not free either even fish. It is understandable why, the tourist season is only 3-4 months long so most places are only open for 3-4 months a year.
  • It is sparsely populated. It is a big province and it has 500,000 people. And half of those people live on the Avalon Peninsula and 200,000 of those in St. John's.
  • The Newfie language and accent is very real.
  • It is a beautiful but rugged environment. The weather is tough, you can see the wear from the winds and salt water on the buildings. In addition, to the weather the economic history of this province has not been easy. Fishing is more than just an industry here but a way of life.
  • The history here is awesome and wholly Canadian. And it made me prouder to be a Canadian to visit and learn about this province. We really do live in a fantastic country.

So that ends our adventure for now, not sure where our next journey will take us, so

Until next time,
G^2

Posted by imalazyj 16:27 Archived in Canada

Tuckamore

Dense, dwarfed and contorted (spruce-fir that is not me)

sunny 18 °C

Here is a tip, hiking 16 km with half being straight up a mountain in running shoes is doable but not generally advised (ankle support is really nice and turns out runners have shitty, soft soles).

So we arrive in Gros Morne yesterday and it is rainy, cloudy and foggy (typical Newfie weather descriptors I think). We fritter away the afternoon and don't see much and then we head out eat, cod (yes, it is a daily feast) and drink one (okay, two) bottles of a pretty decent Pinot Noir (try the Pinot Noir from Ontario, no, not a typo, we have sampled 3 different bottles now and all have been really good). Weather report says tomorrow is going to be 18 and sunny, what should we do? Hike of course. When was the last time we hiked? Let's go with it has been awhile. What hike should we do? Gros Morne Mountain of course!

Gros Morne is not only a National Park (and the second biggest one in Atlantic Canada) but also a world heritage site. It has been designated a world heritage site for both its geological history and its exceptional scenery (which we can agree with today after seeing it, it is beautiful). The geology of the area is similar to Banff with the mountains being formed from plate tectonics and glacier erosion but it also has one unique feature, the Tablelands, which are clearly misplaced (when the area isn't covered in fog) and look more like a barren desert than traditional Newfoundland. The rock which forms them is thought to originate in the Earth's mantle and was forced up from the depths during the collision of the continents (a very long time ago). It is one of the few places on Earth where one can walk on her innards. But that is an "easy" hike so today was set aside for THE MOUNTAIN.

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Here is the descriptor from Parks Canada, "Gros Morne Mountain is the second highest peak on the island of Newfoundland, exceeded only by Lewis Hill. Often capped with clouds, or clothed in fog or snow, the mountain's mystery is reflected in its name: Gros Morne... big lone mountain." Sounds intriguing, right? Same website, first bullet "It is very important to be well prepared before undertaking this hike. This is not an easy hike!!" Ha, we are from Calgary, right, we hike (okay used to hike) the Rockies, how hard can this be?

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Turns out it really wasn't that bad but Parks Canada did not lie it was not easy, there was a solid hour of scrambling up a scree slope (straight up) that was tough and another hour or so of pounding down the backside of the mountain that was less than comfortable but every ounce of discomfort was worth it for the experience and the day. We normally don't have 'favourite' moments when we travel (top three, top five but never a 'best') but I would wager today was the best for this trip. The weather was amazing, perfect if I dare say. The topography and vegetation was beautiful and so different than home. When you reach the top of a mountain here you can actually meander (they are flat like tables) versus home when you reach the top and either scramble along a ridge or turn back and scramble down a cliff. The views were breathtaking and it was fun (even though we both wished we had tossed in our hiking boots).

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So 5.5 hours later we landed back in our car and headed back to town for a well earned beer and a snack (we had snacks on the mountain, Moose Jerky, Moose is very popular here and a Partridge Berry muffin (lots of strange and odd berries out here)). The day concluded with a shower and dinner (more local faire including another berry sample home made ice cream made with Bunch Berries (another odd tasting berry)) and watching a fantastic sunset on the ocean.

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Tomorrow will likely be a lighter day of hiking (Tableland for sure and likely one of the Fiords, Water pond (Newfie's call inland bodies of water 'ponds', no matter how big), we have sighted out two, easy 1-2 hour walks (I suspect we might be a tad sore) before we make our way back to Deer Lake for our final night in Newfoundland.

Until next time,
G^2

Posted by imalazyj 18:17 Archived in Canada Tagged and

'Craftivism'

Activism through Art and Craft

overcast 18 °C

So what I failed to mention yesterday is Ger and I had our first run-in with 'Craftivism'. While hiking we stumbled across an old nintendo control only identified by Rock Vandals. Further research (thank you Google) we discovered Rock Vandals' aim is to surprise and delight through creative acts in otherwise neglected spaces, and ultimately hope to “knit the community together” through social and collaborative projects. The goal of our find was to remind us " of the fact you get just one life to play so get out and enjoy it." A random and fantastic moment.

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So as we ventured out of Twillingate with our eyes more open we managed to identify at least one other project of theirs. Old Manolis and the Sea which was spotted on Tickle Bridge, connecting the two islands known as Twillingate. This place was chosen as it is entirely surrounded by ocean and is frequented by both pedestrians and motorists alike. It is intended to serve as a daily, visual reminder of the presence of oil beneath the sea contained within the Manolis L. (a sunken Liberian ship with 500k tonnes of oil still on board) and its potential impact on the eco-system.

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The remnants of Claudette finally showed up today. Most of the day was covered with fog and a misty type rain, good timing for marginal weather, given our plans include a 4-5 hour drive to Gros Morne. We hit the road early and headed back out on the T.C.H.. We drove a couple hours before ducking off the road to King's Point where the Iceberg tracker showed there were 3 Icebergs close to shore.

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We have seen two icebergs from a distance so I was really hoping for one final chance to see one up close. King's Point did not disappoint. There were two massive icebergs and two additional little ones (likely pieces of the other two) grounded in the Bay. Icebergs are another one of mother nature's wonders for me. They are beautiful up close. Blue almost in colour with odd and random stripes running through them. As the ice melts you can hear the sizzle or fizzing sound called "Bergie Seltzer". The sound is generated as the ice melts and the water-ice interface reaches compressed air bubbles trapped in the ice. As this happens, each bubble bursts, making a 'popping' sound.

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Because the density of pure ice is about 920 kg/m³, and that of seawater about 1025 kg/m³ (thank you wikipedia) typically only one-tenth of the volume of an iceberg is above water. Hence the saying "the tip of the iceberg" and the unfortunate sinking of the Titanic. And while the icebergs we saw today were huge (the tabular one (yes, that is a technical iceberg term)) was almost 1km when it first entered the Bay these are tiny by record standards. The largest known iceberg in the North Atlantic was 55ft high (the part they could see!). Icebergs are calved (broken off) from glaciers (icebergs here are from Greenland) and the largest in record history is actually from Antarctica and was 31,000 square kilometres (bigger than Belgium).

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We visited the King's Point Whale Pavilion which contains a 52 foot skeleton from a humpback. The whale (she) died near Fogo Island after being trapped in some fishing nets and her skeleton is masterfully showcased now in this fantastic building. She was actually disassembled, sent to Drumheller to have her bones properly prepped & have an appropriate stand built for display. It was quite well done. The young girl working at the pavilion mentioned that the icebergs had been in the Bay for about a month already and when pieces calve off it sounds like a gun firing at close range and shakes the whole town.

Content with our detour we continued on our way to Rocky Harbour in Gros Morne National Park. We arrived in time to grab some grub (I had a burger today I won't lie I was craving some beef) and cruise around the cute little towns on the habor before checking into our B&B accommodations for the next two nights. Cute and the hosts are lovely, and more akin to my style I don't feel like I am staying in the middle of their house. Tonight will be an early evening as tomorrow we are off to hike the Gros Morne Mountain.

I discovered a new Travellerspoint feature today and figured out how to post it. This gives you an idea of where we have been. The Map of our Journey

So until next time,
G^2

Posted by imalazyj 14:00 Archived in Canada

Toulinquet

Talk from the Rock Day 5 & 6

sunny 25 °C

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I am not sure how to start this entry (oh wait, yes I do, the last blog title meant "dancing" in Beothuk (an ancient local tribe here)) we have experienced a lot of Newfoundland & Labrador (hereafter just Newfoundland) over the past couple of days. We ended Day 4 with a Newfie sampler for dinner (which included all the 'famous' newfie dishes including the touton (a really thick pancake/biscuit, quite tasty), Newfie/FIsherman Brewis (dried cod and hard (maybe stale?) bread boiled together about as good as it sounds), bologna (very popular out here) and of course, fish cakes).

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We left Bonavista (yesterday morning) and our quaint B&B (lovely people, lovely place but it was actually a room IN their home which makes me HIGHLY uncomfortable, I like to not feel like I am intruding (and not worry if I spill red wine on the white bedding) so while the room was great it is the situation I generally try to avoid when booking accommodation). We hit the T.C.H. (the only place in Canada where the TransCanada Highway is referred to as an acronym that I am aware of) rather early. We headed West to Gander (it's claim to fame was housing 8,000 people when many US bound flights were diverted in 9/11) and then north to Twillingate. Twillingate is an island off the island (Newfoundland is an island, maybe you knew that but I thought it was actually connected to Labrador, shame on me!). Twillingate is another small fishing village (this one is about 2,000 people but I think that number includes all the other little towns on the island as well).

Couple of notes, first, driving the T.C.H. here is kind of boring after a while. There is not much for towns or even facilities on it and is like driving through an endless forest of smallish pine trees. Once you hit a secondary, coastal highway the scenery improves dramatically but the East/West link is the T.C.H.. Second, Newfoundland is more patriotic than the rest of Canada. Every second house has a flag pole or at the very least a flag and usually two, one Canadian and one Newfoundland & Labrador. Third, once you leave St. John's the accent becomes more distinct and thick.

The weather yesterday and today has been remarkably warmer than the first few days. Sunny and 20-24 degrees. Perfect. And unexpected since Tropical Storm Claudette was supposed to make landfall today and we were prepared to wake to rain and 70 km/hr winds. Turns out the weather men here are no better at forecasting the weather than those at home.

We made it into Twillingate about noon just in time for lunch (fish & chips of course) and booked ourselves on a 4pm whale watching/boat tour with the Iceberg Man. The company has a unique and entirely local history, founded by the Captain, Cecil, over 30 years ago during his summers off from teaching elementary physical education. Cecil was born in Twillingate and subsequently raised his own family here. He proved to be every bit as good of guide as the reviews stated (thank you tripadvisor, yet again). We toured the coast of the area and saw the most interesting jellyfish grouping (thousands of jellyfish, so many they changed the colour of the water, I was so grateful to be in a boat and not diving to witness it) and managed to site a Minke whale at relatively close distance. The whales aren't in this area yet, they are late this year, something to do with the water temperature and capelin spawning elsewhere. Minkes, unlike other whale species, feed differently so they are often sighted alone (Minkes will eat one or two fish at a time whereas a humpback will circle and gather a large group of fish before opening its mouth to feed). All in all a great afternoon.

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Given we had anticipated (from looking at the forecasts) a shitty day today, we may have stayed up late last night drinking a bottle or so of wine with dinner and enjoying ourselves. Much to our delight when we finally got moving this morning it was a beautiful, bright day so instead of a road trip to Fogo Island we opted to do some hiking around the area. We hiked the coastal edge for some great vistas of the cliffs and ocean, refuelled at a little sandwich shop before venturing out again.

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The other stop we made today was for a quick but informative tour of the local winery. No that is not a typo. There is a winery here, Auk Island Winery (names of their wine include originals like Iceberg Wine, Funky Puffin, Moose Joose, Krooked Cod etc). The non-traditional aspect of this winery is all the wine is made from berries and Iceberg water (yes, that is a thing, they are specially equipped barges that collect the pieces that fall/break off the icebergs and melt the ice naturally (heating it causes bacteria)). While it was interesting both Ger and I are sticking to our fermented grape base wines.

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So now we are sipping a local lager and resting up before consuming some more calories this evening. Tomorrow we hit the T.C.H. again and head to the final area of journey, Gros Morne National Park. Enroute we are going to make a detour to King's Point where there are two Icebergs grounded in the Bay (the death of an Iceberg is either melting and disappear into the ocean or hitting land and grounding itself).

So until next time,
G^2

Footnote: Ger found this awesome video on "What happened to the Grand Banks Cod?" long but worth a watch, the theory applies to other Canadian Industries as well What happened to the Grand Banks Cod?

Posted by imalazyj 11:29 Archived in Canada

thug-wed-gie

Talk from the Rock Day 3 & 4

overcast 18 °C
View The Rock on imalazyj's travel map.

Well the last couple days have flown by with alarming speed. We ended Day 2 with another amazing meal with local ingredients at Mallard's Cottage in Quidi Vidi (so fresh they hand write the menu daily!). We tried Capelin for the first time. It was battered and deep friend, slightly bigger than a sardine and pretty darn tasty. The capelin are small forage fish and are responsible for the whales we have been seeing as in summer (mainly June through July), the capelin graze on dense swarms of plankton and the whales graze on them.

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We finished the evening off with a final stop at O'Reily's on George Street for some great, live, local (Ger and I were the only ones in the bar that couldn't sing along) music. It was a fantastic end to our time in St. John's.

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Given we rolled in sometime after 1 am the next day started late and slowly. A quick breakfast at Tim Horton's (another advantage to traveling within Canada) and we headed west to our next destination Trinity.

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Trinity is a tiny town located on Trinity Bay (tiny as in 100 residents or so). The town is exceptionally picturesque with a number of buildings recognized as Registered Heritage Structures by the province. We rolled into town, grabbed a sandwich and some fish cakes at the local Mercantile and checked into our charming B&B in a historic (and very creaky and rather loud) house. We spent the afternoon completing the Trinity Historic Walking Tour. An informative and fun afternoon exploring a blacksmith shop, fish merchants, couple churches and off course some tchachki tourist stores. Trinity is rich in history as the Bay is quite protected and was used as extensively by fishing fleets and mercantile exchange fleets dating back to the 16th century. The walking tour was really well done ($20 bucks gets you a ticket and entry into all the buildings and most were staffed with guides to fill one full of useless knowledge about the building and history). I have no idea who had the foresight to envision such a tour from this tiny town and find the funds to restore the buildings to make it happen but kudos to them, it was really well executed.

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Useless fact: Trinity was also a site for medical research. What, you ask. Smallpox vaccinations. Huh? Seriously. And get this, in those days how did one research if a vaccination worked? You injected your kid and hoped for the best. I am not kidding. That's how the smallpox vaccination was found. Turns out people who got cowpox (a milder version transmitted namely to milkmaids) didn't get smallpox. Some dude noticed this (Edward Jenner) tested his theory on his gardner's son (nice) and thus was born the smallpox vaccination. Why this random tidbit in Newfoundland, Jenner told his buddy, John Clinch (who was living at the Trinity Outpost) and Clinch tested it on his kids, thus bringing the vaccination to the New World.

I am not drying out or losing any weight this trip, we ended the day with another chart topping meal at the little (5 table) restaurant in town, Twine Loft. Another glorious meal of fresh fish and root vegetables (it is tough to grow much else here, good soil is limited and it isn't exactly balmy) followed by a cheesy chick flick on Netflix in the comfort of our room at the B&B.

Today we started a little earlier than the past few days with a substantial and early breakfast and we were off to hike the Skerwink Trail. A beautiful and easy 5.3 km loop along the coast line with views of the ocean and Trinity. It made for a beautiful morning. Following our attempt at exercise we headed up to Bonavista, our destination for the day.

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A slightly larger coastal town (3,500 people) and the supposed spot where Cabot landed in 1497 the town is chalk full of history and things to do. Ger and I are both pretty much local museum'd out (it is like Europe there is only so many churches you can see before you start to lose appreciation) but we did really enjoy the Cape Bonavista Lighthouse. While at the Cape we finally managed to see the Puffin, which looks like a cross between a parrot and a penguin, and is Newfoundland's provincial bird. Not to end the excitement with the Puffin we saw more whales, both Humpbacks and Minke, breach the surface and what is likely to be our last Iceberg sighting. Turns out Icebergs are tracked (the one we saw today is Iceberg 119842 and is a smaller, dome shaped according to the map) and there is a map, so I can see that the one we saw in St. John's and today's are likely the only two we will see unless we alter our plans.

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Bonavista was also a significant merchant operation in its day (mainly cod fishing) so it was here that finally prompted my need-to-know to inquire about what exactly happened to the cod industry. Technology essentially happened. Once the fisherman developed sophisticated fishing systems they quickly over-fished the cod and caused what may be irreplaceable damage to the ecosystem (the fish populations still have not recovered). A moratorium was declared in 1992 causing economic devastation to Newfoundland and its people. It was the largest industrial shut-down in Canada's history and put over 35,000 people out of work.

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We spent the rest of the day cruising around the area to a some beautiful coastal spots and one very cheesy tourist stop (the exact replica of Cabot's ship has been built and lives here for visiting). We are know spending some quality time with a Quidi Vidi brew before heading back to our B&B. Tomorrow we head further west to Twillingate where I am hoping we can take a boat cruise out to witness some whales (originally I had hoped for both a whale & an iceberg boat tour but looking at the 'berg map I don't think that is likely).

Until next time,
G^2

Posted by imalazyj 12:40 Archived in Canada Tagged and newfoundland labrador

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